A&E Firms Look to Build a More Sustainable World

April 22, 2024
Meeting amongst tropical plants

In the face of growing environmental concerns, architecture and engineering (A&E) firms recognize the importance of sustainable practices. It is widely acknowledged within the profession that firms consider the built environment's influence on the planet's ecological equilibrium, its effects on human health and prosperity and its ability to withstand natural or human-induced events.

According to IEA, buildings are responsible for a significant portion of greenhouse gas emissions, primarily through energy consumption and construction materials. By incorporating sustainable design principles, A&E firms can help reduce these emissions and contribute to a healthier planet, plus sustainable design can also result in long-term cost savings for building owners. Energy-efficient buildings require less energy to operate, leading to lower utility bills over time. Additionally, sustainable materials tend to be more durable and require less maintenance, reducing long-term costs for building owners. By incorporating sustainable practices, A&E firms can help their clients save money while also benefiting the environment.

For engineering firms, it is all about problem-solving and innovation, with engineers constantly seeking ways to design products and services that improve our lives and the way we work. However, in today's world where environmental issues are at the forefront of global concerns, sustainability has become a key component of any engineering project. Engineering management plays a crucial role in ensuring that projects are not only efficient and effective but also environmentally sustainable in the long run. This involves considering the environmental impact of materials used, energy consumption, waste generation and overall lifecycle analysis to minimize negative environmental consequences.

One of the key elements of sustainability practices for architecture firms is the design process. Sustainable design focuses on creating buildings that not only reduce their impact on the environment but also enhance the well-being of their occupants. Features such as natural daylight, indoor air quality and access to green spaces can enhance the well-being and productivity of occupants. By prioritizing sustainability in their designs, architecture firms can create buildings that not only benefit the environment but also promote health and wellness for those who live and work in them.

Strategies to Overcome Sustainability Challenges

According to the AIA Architects Journey to Specification Report, 80% of architects want to specify more sustainable materials, but only one in three feels they are meeting that responsibility today. In addition, four in five architects want to specify more sustainable products but are challenged by various factors such as costs, product availability and time researching materials.

To help manage these issues, firms should start small rather than tackling everything at once. Identify what sustainability means to your practice and set project goals that meet your firm’s sustainability vision. Make sure that all stakeholders are on board with sustainable design choices. As an example, does your firm want to specify a material with a high recycled content percentage compared to one that does not? Do you want to invest in more sustainable products so you can meet the sustainability vision of the firm?

To save time in creating specification documents, invest in software for automation. Developing specifications is a large percentage of the contract deliverableup to 50%. It’s an integral part of the design process, but it can be time-consuming and requires all team members to be involved. Navigating through the multiple phases of design and construction requires the team to work efficiently and accurately. Automation is key to helping meet today’s demanding project schedules and achieve high-quality results without burdening the project team with increased RFIs, change orders and schedule disruptions.

Merge Architectural Group is an award-winning architectural firm located in Phoenix, Arizona, providing complete architectural, planning and interior design services. Co-founded by Carlos Murrieta and Clarisa del Castillo in 2012, they have a diverse portfolio focused on community, education, government, higher education, hospitality and multifamily projects.

According to Carlos, navigating numerous building product manufacturer options and determining the best fit for a specific project can be time-consuming and complex. To streamline this process, Carlos utilizes Deltek Specpoint, which includes AIA MasterSpec®. This collaborative, all-in-one specification software helps Carlos to efficiently research and select building products, write specifications and create project manuals, ensuring successful project delivery.

Carlos shares, “One of the things that I noticed almost immediately with Specpoint is the level of detail with the building product manufacturer cards.” This information includes a concise product description highlighting its purpose, features, functionalities, detailed technical specifications and manufacturer contact information. With more accessible product selection, Carlos can explore a wide range of sustainable products, materials and technologies, evaluating their performance, cost-effectiveness and availability.

With automation, Carlos finds that he can generate specifications faster, effortlessly navigate through the specifications and easily make updates or revisions. This streamlined process allows Carlos and his team to handle more complex projects and complete them more efficiently.

Working Towards a Sustainable Future

Sustainable specifications can have a profound impact on the environment. They prioritize materials and processes that minimize resource consumption, such as using renewable resources, recycled materials, or materials with low embodied energy.

Sustainable specification software is a powerful tool for promoting environmental stewardship in the architecture and engineering industries. By integrating sustainable practices into specifications and project documents, firms can design, construct and operate projects that minimize their environmental footprint and contribute to a more sustainable future.


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